In the second part of our players’ evaluation, we will see how the Thunder’s big guys performed during the season that just ended.
Season Stats: 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.0 block in 29.9 minutes
Steven Adams signed a big contract extension before the deadline in October. The fans’ expectations were pretty high on Adams for this season, not only because of the big contract but also for what he showed in the playoffs last year. Did the young Kiwi meet all of those expectations? Not entirely. However, he definitely had a good season overall.
He had some ups and downs through the year, especially in shooting and free throw percentage, but at his young age (not even 24 years old yet) it’s all part of the process: to improve, be more consistent, and become a better player.
The main critique about Adams has been the fact that he did not perform as good as his contract looks like. People forget that his contract for the past season was only around three million while the new contract (22 million) will kick in from next year. The Thunder organization made an investment based on what they think Adams will become.
If the Thunder’s gameplan wasn’t to let the FT rebound to Westbrook then maybe Adams could have averaged a double-double. Would then people have a different perspective of his season? Probably so.
Adams improved on many aspects of his game and as a result, he had a career-high average in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game. In addition, he shot a career-high 61% from the FT line.
Season Stats: 14.3 points, 6.7 rebounds in 21.3 minutes.
Enes Kanter had a solid season coming off the bench. Even if he played the same amount of minutes per game as he did last year, his points per game improved from 12.7 to 14.3 while his rebounds went a bit down from 8.1 to 6.7 (same reason as Adams).
He recorded 18 double-doubles, the second within all players coming off the bench (Randolph from the Memphis Grizzlies had 20 while playing 3 minutes more per game) and second on the Thunder, behind Russell Westbrook.
If it wasn’t for that silly injury to his arm in January, which cost him not only four weeks out but also probably few games to the Thunder, he might be on the ballot for 6th man of the year.
Unfortunately, it’s not all great when it comes to Kanter. This short playoff run by the Thunder reminded us that his defense, especially against certain teams (Warriors and Rockets above all), is still very bad and makes him unplayable. An important question Sam Presti will need to address this offseason: is it worth to pay 17 million per year for this type of offensive machine, accepting that he is still a huge defensive liability?
Season Stats (with the Thunder): 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game
Gibson joined the Thunder at the trade deadline last February. He wasn’t in the starting five immediately but he joined it after only seven games.
In those two months playing with the Thunder, he did a very good job on both ends of the floor. He is not afraid to dribble and attack the basket, he can shoot from midrange and he is also a strong and a good defender.
While doing all of this, Gibson showed what a player like him can bring to the table: energy, intensity, athleticism, and experience. All qualities that a young team like Oklahoma City needed, going into the final part of the regular season and during the playoff.
Gibson will be a free agent from July 1st and it will be interesting to see if the Thunder makes an offer to him. In the exit interviews, Taj expressed his desire to stay in Oklahoma City but, as we all know, when there are millions involved this decision is not easy.
Season Stats: 1.7 points, 1.5 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game (20 games played).
Nick Collison, A.K.A. Mr. Thunder had the worst season of his career. It isn’t because he played bad but because he basically did not play at all.
His role within the Thunder has completely changed this year. He played almost only in garbage time and he has been an extra coach on the bench for the big young players
Like Gibson, also Collison will be a free agent from July 1st. Nick said he wants to play next year and it will be most likely again with the Thunder.